We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lake County Clean Water Committee Holds First Meeting

Lake County did a little trendsetting last night, convening the first meeting of its new official clean water committee. We are one of the first counties in South Dakota (if not the first) to create such an official committee to focus on protecting our local watersheds.

I attended as an appointed member. Fifteen of my neighbors were there as well (see roster below). Don't worry: we didn't impose a 50% water tax or hire a county septic tank inspector. Our committee doesn't have authority to impose anything, only propose.

Right now the committee is in planning stage. We need to get clear on our mission before we start lining up projects and resources to accomplish that mission. Defining that mission won't be too hard, since we have the prior work of the volunteer Interlakes Water Quality Committee on which to build. That group gathered years of data, identified nearly a hundred problem areas, and sketched perhaps a dozen projects that would benefit water quality around Lake County. Rather than reinvent the waterwheel, our committee plans to pick up as much as possible where IWQC left off.

What will we focus on? Martin Jarrett, committee chair, offered several goals: reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment run-off; reduce algae blooms and bacteria contamination; and increase water clarity. We'll draw up a mission statement next month that will likely revolve around those goals. Then be ready to hear a lot about grasy waterways and buffer zones.

We didn't spend much money last night: the county might reimburse us for mileage, but that's it so far (Commissioner Pedersen didn't mention whether they'll discount my mileage if I bike in). But the committee did discuss the need for a paid employee. Some folks on the committee would prefer the job be handled by interns or other part-timers to save money. Others see a need for a full-time person who can stick around and build a little institutional memory. Some members of the old IWQC said their group ran out of steam in part because there's only so much one can ask of volunteers, and that water quality work requires a regular, long-term commitment worth a salary.

Should the committee decide (and the county commission agree) to hire a water quality employee, the cost would not come entirely from the county coffers. During the meeting, Jay Gilbertson said his organization, East Dakota Water Development District, could make matchin funds available. Martin Jarrett noted the Lake Madison Development Association had planned to offer $5000 to the IWQC to support an employee for the water project district that voters on Lakes Madison and Brant defeated last summer. Jarrett suggested the LMDA might consider offering a similar amount to support a county water official.

But before we try hiring someone, we need to define exactly what work we want to do. That work is pretty clear: there are too much nutrients, too much sediment, and too much fecal bacteria in our lakes and streams. Our lakes get too green and too silty. We need to protect our watercourses and wetlands to improve everyone's quality of life in Lake County.

We'll define that mission at next month's meeting. The Lake County Water Quality Committee plans to meet the fourth Thursday of every month. So next meeting will be Thursday, February 25, at 7 p.m. (site to be determined—stay tuned!).

In attendance at last night's meeting:
  • Martin Jarrett, chair
  • Chuck Robbins
  • Charlie Stoneback
  • Dale Droge
  • Kent Petersen
  • Craig Johanssen
  • Scott Pedersen, representing the county commission
  • Linda Hilde
  • Michelle Goodale, district manager, Lake County Conservation District
  • Brian Schultz, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service district office headquartered here in Lake County
  • Jan Nicolay
  • Jay Gilbertson, manager of East Dakota Water Development District
  • Charlie Johnson
  • Walt Schaefer
  • Larry Kotten
  • Cory Allen Heidelberger


  1. You and I should make sure we trade notes. I'm on the Solid Waste and Planning board and I believe Madison uses the landfill here. There was a big change up and we are starting anew, since Sioux Falls now has a Sustainability Director.

    Our board was talking about taking on the whole package of Sustainability, but decided for now, to just focus on obtaining a 75% recycling rate. If your board wants to be in contact with her you can reach her through the Household Hazardous Waste website at www.siouxfalls.org her name is Aimee.

    Also one other thing. I don't know if you know of the old auction house on N. Cliff ave almost to Renner, but it had turned into Belly Acres greenhouse. I'm not sure if they are still there, they were trying to sell, last year. But I stopped in there and she had hooked up with some guy at SDSU extension office, who had created an organic fertilizer and she was selling it in little baggies. I'm not sure what it was. It was light and fluffy, looked more like shaved wood rather than silage but it wasn't shaved wood either, but it had little shiny things in it like mica chips.

    She was working with him about the same time I was talking with another guy up there about low maintenance and native grasses.

    If we are going to get a low maintenance grass project going over here I would love to have that stuff easily obtainable. Also, if fish emulsion is supposed to be such great stuff, I wonder if there is a way to bottle that or dry it out and package it to put it on the market.

    I never got a name of the guy from SDSU. If this is along the lines of what you were thinking for clean water, we should have both committees find out who he is and go after him.

  2. Thanks for the update. This committee consists of some extremely knowledgeable people that are passionate about clean water. I am sure many good suggestions will be explored. I was glad to see a good cross section of backgrounds represented. I would like to see the DENR and GF&P represented as well. I think both agencies would be able to assist by answering questions and learning about the research that has already been done. At some point, money is going to be needed to solve some of these problems. Getting the word out to as many agencies as possible can only help. In order to maximize success, you will need broad support from all corners of the county. I am hopeful that this effort will be successful. There is no doubt in my mind that this committee will identify problem areas and offer solutions. My main question is the same: Will the commission make the tough decision and implement your suggestions.

    Steven Kant

  3. April, we'll be happy to make connections with any resources we can find. The more we can do by incentives (encouraging use of organic fertilizer, planting more native grasses for buffer zones, etc.), the better.

    But Steve's concern about the need for enforcement remains valid. Committee members discussed exactly that issue (among others) Thursday. We're all talk and no action so far—but we need to talk first to get clear on the specifics of what we're going to recommend the county do. Keep the fire to our feet, Steve! If we don't succeed, if we don't make real change happen, we deserve to catch hell... and I'll keep the comment section open for exactly that purpose.

  4. We seem to be all talk and no action so far also, but we did get through the city ordinance and fixed some flaws and updated. I walked into a very Heated Board. Which also slowed progress. So now we meet in the council chambers instead of a round table. You wouldn't believe how much this simple step increased civility.

    I had to miss the last meeting in December. The Sustainability Coordinator updated me by telling me that the board is looking forward to some exciting things this year. So I'm hoping that means that the Education Committee is going to start rolling.

    Lets hope that sd science page brings some innovation to light so that people just do, instead of waiting to be enforced.

  5. ...and I probably should remind people that when I say "we", I'm speaking as an individual making an independent observation on a group to which I happen to belong and which I hope will be able to take certain actions, not as any sort of officially designated spokesperson enunciating officially declared positions or plans.

    Ah, disclaimers....


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.